Filed Under Businesses

Mitchell's Fine Chocolates

Well into the 20th century, waves of immigrants swelled Cleveland's ranks. Among them was a Greek native by the name of Chris Mitchell. Rather than contenting himself with a factory job, however, Mitchell tried his hand in business. Unfortunately, it was during the Great Depression and Mitchell’s first three businesses failed. But then he made a particularly astute observation: One business that seemed to thrive despite hard economic times was cinema! For his fourth endeavor, Mitchell thus chose to open a candy shop next door to the Heights Theater in 1939. More than three quarters of a century later, the store is still a Cleveland Heights icon.

Originally located on Euclid Heights Boulevard, Mitchell's was not the only store selling popcorn and penny candy to moviegoers. At one point there were as many as sixteen others in the Cleveland area. However, when movie theaters started bringing concessions in house, businesses similar to Mitchell's began to die out. Rather than suffer the same fate, Chris Mitchell deemphasized popcorn and other inexpensive sweet treats and focused most heavily on chocolate. The store's chocolates and the methods by which they are made have remained the same for decades, with the exception of new molds, a few modern machines, and the introduction of more products.

Chris Mitchell's new wife, Penelope, joined the business in 1949, a year after they were married. Their son, Bill, who had worked for his father as a boy, eventually inherited the business. After fifty-two years in Coventry Village, Mitchell's relocated to Lee Road in May 1991. Chris Mitchell died in 2000 at the age of 102. Penelope Mitchell lived until her late nineties. She passed away in 2015, assisting in the shop until shortly before her death. In 2016, Bill Mitchell finally decided it was time for a change. The business is now owned by Jason Hallaman and his wife Emily, who are committed to maintaining the Mitchells’ impeccable legacy.

The view from the shop windows may have changed, as have the owners. However, the tastes and smells of fresh, hand-dipped chocolate remind loyal customers of the small candy store where they would spend their dimes as children.

Audio

Beginnings Bill Mitchell talks about where his family's store opened and where it moved. Source: Cleveland Regional Oral History Collection
Becoming a Chocolate House Bill Mitchell talks about the candy his shop used to offer when he was a kid and why it changed. Source: Cleveland Regional Oral History Collection
Different Neighborhoods Bill Mitchell compares having his business at his old location on Coventry Road to its new location on Lee Road. Source: Cleveland Regional Oral History Collection
Greek Candy Makers Bill Mitchell gives a history of Greek-owned candy shops in Cleveland. Source: Cleveland Regional Oral History Collection
Chocolate Cartel Bill Mitchell talks about how the fall of the Berlin Wall affected the price of chocolate. Source: Cleveland Regional Oral History Collection
Dark Chocolate Bill Mitchell tells how the Mitchell's shop is different than others. Source: Cleveland Regional Oral History Collection
Evolving and Expanding Bill Mitchell lists some of the new items the store has introduced over the years. Source: Cleveland Regional Oral History Collection
Mitchell's at the Movies Dennis Coughlin describes Mitchell's Candies' original location beside the Heights Theater. Source: Cleveland Regional Oral History Collection

Images

The Original Mitchell Team Chris and Penelope Mitchell take a break from their duties at the store's original location on Euclid Heights Boulevard adjacent to the theater.
Bill Mitchell Having worked at the candy counter as a boy, Bill Mitchell inherited the store his father opened in 1939. He originally planned to work in government or foreign service, but decided in his late twenties to come back to Cleveland and take up the family business. Image Courtesy of Heidi K. Fearing
Mitchell's Candies, 1985 When Greek immigrant Chris Mitchell decided to open a candy store, he chose a most profitable location - right next to the local movie theater. Then called Mitchell's Candies, the shop would stay open until midnight on the weekends to serve the crowd of moviegoers their much needed popcorn. Image Courtesy of Cleveland State University. Michael Schwartz Library. Special Collections.
On Lee Road, 1992 In the early 1990s, the building where Mitchell's Candies had been for fifty-two years was purchased. The family business moved from Euclid Heights Boulevard in Coventry village to the Cedar-Lee district two miles away (the façade of this location has since been entirely remodeled). Bill Mitchell recognized the benefits of both locations, but acknowledged that the move to Lee Road gave him much more space and better parking options for his customers. Image Courtesy of Cleveland State University. Michael Schwartz Library. Special Collections.
Numsen and Whitney's, 1876 The interior of Numsen and Whitney's, a confectionery located at 185 Superior Street, is an example of how the interior of an early candy shop would look. By the early 20th century, however, most candy sales took place in the downtown department stores alongside other merchandise. Image Courtesy of Cleveland State University. Michael Schwartz Library. Special Collections.
The Old Fashioned Way Although the Mitchell family introduced some modern machinery into the production process, most chocolate creations continue to be hand dipped. This 1951 photograph from May's Candy Factory shows how the process takes place. It also may remind one of a humorous episode of I Love Lucy, "Job Switching," in which Lucy and Ethel attempt to work in a candy factory. Image Courtesy of Cleveland State University, Michael Schwartz Library. Special Collections.
Shop Interior, 2012 When Mitchell's Fine Chocolates moved from Coventry Village to Lee Road, it brought many of the fixtures it had been using for fifty-two years. Inside the shop today one can still see the same tables, bar, candy cases, and front display frame. Image Courtesy of Heidi K. Fearing
Chocolate Treats As long as Mitchell's has been open, its variety of chocolate choices has been unique. Rather than mainly offering milk chocolate as most shops did and continue to do, the Mitchells focused on dark chocolate. Although that has not changed, new molds and innovative recipes are continuously being introduced. Image Courtesy of Heidi K. Fearing

Location

2285 Lee Rd, Cleveland Heights, OH 44118

Metadata

Heidi Fearing, “Mitchell's Fine Chocolates,” Cleveland Historical, accessed June 30, 2022, https://clevelandhistorical.org/items/show/545.